When Boogie’s It’s All Good monograph was released in 2006, all eyes were suddenly on the Serbian-born, Brooklyn-based photographer’s images, which were unflinching, no-nonsense depictions of gangs, drugs, and some of New York’s seediest neighborhoods. Critics praised him for bringing the realities of these underworlds to light, and it was hard to find a review that didn’t use words like “raw” and “edgy” to describe his work.
Boogie, his second monograph, finds the man searching for that same honesty in his subjects, but with the camera often trained on the calmer, quieter moments of human existence. XLR8R recently chatted with him about the new book, living in New York, and finding beauty in the everyday.
Boogie is available now through powerHouse Books.
XLR8R: Can you explain the process of selecting the images that appear in Boogie?
Boogie: My first book, It’s All Good, was pretty heavy, all guns and needles. I really wanted this book to show another side of me. I don't think I want to be remembered as the guy who shoots only dark and dirty subjects. Especially lately (even more since my kid was born), I see beauty all around, in normal, everyday things.
Since it's really difficult for me to edit my own work (as it is for most photographers), I asked a good friend of mine, Giorgio de Mitri for help. He has a great eye, and knows me and my work very well. And I trust his judgment. We exchanged tons of emails and then met in Istanbul to go over the final edit. I think we killed it; I'm pretty picky, but I'm very happy with this book.
Do you have a particular favorite image that appears in the book?
I think it's the pigeon from Barcelona [pictured above].
Many of your photographs have an impromptu, spur-of-the-moment feel to them. Do you ever plan to capture a certain kind of image when you go out to shoot, or do you simply try to capture subjects and scenes that are intriguing to you at the time?
Usually I go with the flow, and the photos are definitely impromptu, ’cause I carry my camera with me everywhere... but I don't know, sometimes I visualize images, subject, and composition, and then when or if I find that image, it's great. Even when I'm not out there shooting, I think about what/how/when to shoot, and images are flying through my head all the time.
Are there any particular themes you feel connect the pictures in Boogie?
They are all pretty much everyday life scenes, taken from different parts of the world.
Is there a certain message you hope to convey to the viewer with your work? Do you hope people will come away from the book with a particular mood or feeling?
There is no specific message I'm trying to convey, but it is a very personal collection of work for me. I think it has good flow and energy, and hopefully people will feel compelled to look through it over and over again.
You've been living in the U.S. for some time now. Has your view of the country changed at all since you first arrived? Has your time here affected the subjects you explore for your pictures?
I've been in New York since the 1998, and the atmosphere here definitely has become more depressing in the past several years. While working on the gang/drug project, I noticed that because of the declining economy, cheaper drugs, like crack, have made a comeback. Also, since the focus of the police became homeland security, I think gang activity has been on the rise.
Subjects I explore [have] changed dramatically, since I don't hang out in the ghetto anymore. [It’s All Good] really took a toll on my mental health. It was very hard to snap out of it. So now I'm into finding beauty in normality. I also take a lot of baby pictures–my daughter is the most photographed baby in the world, no doubt about that.
Are there places or things you would like to shoot that you haven't yet?
Oh yeah, a lot. The world is a big place and there is so much out there for me to see and document. Travels are always a great source of inspiration, seeing how other people live is priceless.